Russians here seeking help with substance-abuse programs
The Oak Ridger (Oak Ridge, TN)
Posted on October 1, 2002
By Heather McCoy
The program brings Russian leaders to the United States for exposure to American democratic and economic institutions. It is managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development, an independent agency located at the Library of Congress.
The delegates arrived Sept. 25 and will stay through Oct. 3.
The Academy for Educational Development received a grant from the Center for Russian Leadership Development. The Oak Ridge Sister City Support Organization is the local partner of the academy. The Sister City Support Organization, in association with Ridgeview psychiatric hospital, organized the program, meals, local transportation, and host families for the visiting Russians.
Bob Benning, chief executive officer of Ridgeview, said the lack of drug and alcohol prevention programs in Russia became evident to him two years ago when he went with volunteers from the United Way of Anderson County to the Oak Ridge sister city of Obninsk, Russia. There was a lack of resources in the area to start social programs, he said.
While there, Benning met with two Russian Navy submarine physicians who were trying to establish alcohol and drug prevention education programs. He helped them develop a plan for social programs and has worked with them to establish funding for their plans.
In order to help leaders in Obninsk learn about what types of programs are offered in the United States and how they are set up, a delegation of five leaders have come from Russia to Tennessee to visit children and youth programs, and observe these organizations firsthand, Linda Kimmel, director of public relations for Ridgeview, said.
Dmitriy Nachinkin, from Moscow, is the delegation's team facilitator. Sergey Kirichuk is from Obninsk. Stanislav Kosolapov is from Kaluga, Vera Litkova is from Armavir and Margarita Zhuravleva is from Pervomayskiy.
This morning the group traveled to Nashville where they were to meet with the staff of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. The group was to have lunch with the staff of Advocare, a behavioral health organization that contracts for all mental health services in the state. They were then to meet with the staff of the Tennessee Bureau of Alcohol and Drugs, then tour the Capitol.
Wednesday the group will travel to Knoxville where they will meet with the Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Residential Center operated by the Helen Ross McNabb Center, then go to Sevier County to visit with the staff of the Sevier County drug court.
A farewell dinner sponsored by Ridgeview will be held at 7 p.m., and the host families of the delegates will be invited. The delegates will return to Russia on Thursday.
The program has been a positive experience, according to Benning. "I think they are going to have a lot of ideas based on what they have seen," he said. He added that he expects the delegation members will sit down with other Russian leaders once they return to Russia and consider all the ideas brought to them and figure out which programs will work for them.
"If they do, I will go after necessary grants to get the information translated and even consider sending staff to Russia so they can help teach individuals how to apply for these programs," Benning said.
Some of the regions that are having the biggest problems with alcohol and drug abuse, Benning said, are those closest to Moscow. He noted that the problem is complicated by the fact that it is not illegal for children and youth to use drugs or alcohol. It is only illegal for them to sell drugs or alcohol.
"The problem is that since the start of democracy again, within the last 10 years there's been a real increase in the drugs available in the country, coming primarily through Asia and other countries where drugs are notoriously developed," Benning said. He noted that drugs were not a big problem under Communism, but that has since changed.
"With democracy comes the good and the bad, unfortunately," Benning said, "and as a result, they don't have a lot of resources that we have."
The efforts of the exchange programs between Oak Ridge and Obninsk have shown some fruit, though, according to Ed Nephew, a sponsor and a founding member of the Oak Ridge Sister City Support Organization. He said the organization has had success in helping leaders in Obninsk with commercial and business development.
"We have reason to believe that we have been successful because there are at least 20 to 30 businesses and agencies in our sister city who started up by first coming to Oak Ridge and contacting local entrepreneurs and manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce," Nephew said.
As for setting up social programs in Obninsk, Marese Nephew said, "This group certainly has the opportunity to learn a lot about the programs they have here for the prevention of dependency on drugs and alcohol."
Benning and Ed Nephew both noted that Ken Luckmann, who has worked with the Sister City Support Organization since 1992, has played a big role in making the delegation visit happen.
Luckmann worked with Benning on writing the grant, he helped develop parts of the schedule, Benning said, and he is the lead liaison with the American Council for International Education.
"He's been a significant link for me in making this happen," Benning added.
The visit has gone well, Luckmann said. "The problem in Russia is a significant one," he said. "Just like in the U.S. there are kids at risk, but really, I think we have given them some great ideas to implement in Russia."
Plans are in the works to bring a delegation of about 18 people from Obninsk to visit Oak Ridge in early December for a program dealing with business development, Luckmann said. Part of the program, he said, will be to present Obninsk officials with the community tapestry that was woven at the Oak Ridge Public Library for the people of Obninsk. The tapestry is currently on display behind the main desk of the library.
Two other tapestries have been made by volunteers for the Sister City Support Organization. One was made for the people of Naka Machi, Japan, Oak Ridge's other sister city, and it is now in Naka Machi. A third tapestry is in the works for Oak Ridge.
© Copyright 2002, The Oak Ridger. Used with permission.
[Reprinted with Permission]